Planned or not, the timing of Citizen Jack is brilliant. Releasing it during perhaps America’s most circus-like election cycle? A stroke of goddamn genius. Call it life-imitates-art, call it a happy coincidence, call it what you will, but the fact remains that Citizen Jack, especially in its fourth issue, is perhaps the most topical comic book today. At the core of proceedings this time is a political debate, which hosts all kinds of crazy; be it in the talking dolphin moderator, the rabidly idiotic audience, or in the titular Jack himself, whose presidential run is already a bad parody of itself. Sound familiar, America? On either side of this debate debacle is the story of a nobody who is desperate to be somebody. Jack is hungry to prove that he is not a joke, by any means necessary; and while that doesn’t make him necessarily “bad,” it does make him dangerous. It doesn’t help, of course, that he has fallen in with a fallen angel.
The best part of this issue, in fact, surrounds those two characters: Jack, and the demon Marlinspike, as we get closer to the nougaty center of what makes each tick, and the straits that have brought them together. I suspect that they are actually a lot more alike than either of them - or the reader - is willing to admit at this point. But seeing Jack’s lifelong tragedy set beside Marlinspike’s mystery has provided a strong and steady workhorse of a title.
Somewhat surprisingly, given how it echoes the devils of real-world politics at the moment, Citizen Jack has quietly been chugging along, but I think it could turn a corner any moment into what could be an affecting supernatural tragedy. I won’t go so far as to call it “Shakespearean,” but the elements are there.
Tommy Patterson’s art style reminds me in a lot of ways of Nick Pitarra’s. It is cartoonish, even buffoonish, but it is also so stylized as to appear grotesque, and can definitely get creepy when a given scene so demands. Whether it’s in a hidden gun tucked within a waistband, fingers suddenly sprouting worm-like horns, or fresh blood on a white snout, Patterson and colorist Jon Alderink turn up the chills this issue.
I’ve been hard on Alderink’s colors in previous issues, noting how its consistency wavered, often between panels. And while that remains true here, he also applies some interesting veneers in the flashback and more hallucinatory scenes. Still, a more consistently measured approach to color wouldn’t go amiss when things get serious. But man, that page where we get a close-up of Jack’s beleaguered face? That thing is firing on all cylinders.
I hope political fatigue isn’t (ironically) hurting the allure of Citizen Jack, because it remains a very enjoyable book. It has a lot to say, not necessarily on the state of American politics, but on that of the American Dream, the destinies we hope are ours and what we’re willing to do to make both come true. Oh, and hell. Also hell.
Citizen Jack #4 Writer: Sam Humphries Artist: Tommy Patterson Colorist: Jon Alderink Letterer: Rachel Deering Publisher: Image Comics Release Date: 2/17/16 Price: $3.99 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital